Nigeria: TikTokers beaten and ordered to flush toilets as court rules they defamed Nigerian governor

Abuja, Nigeria

Two TikTok comedians have been publicly flogged in Nigeria for making a video that a court in the northern state of Kano ruled defamed state governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, according to a court spokesman.

Mubarak Isah Muhammad, 26, and Nazifi Muhammad Bala, 23, were each given 20 lashes for making defamatory statements about the governor, a spokesman for the Kano state judiciary, Baba Jibo Ibrahim, told CNN on Wednesday.

The two friends, according to Ibrahim, were sentenced on Monday after being brought before an investigative court on Friday. They were arrested over the weekend, the judiciary spokesman said.

“They admitted to the charges. They didn’t even ask or plead for a lawyer to represent them,” Ibrahim told CNN.

“They were arraigned before the Kano State Magistrates Court for defaming the character of Governor Umar Ganduje on their TikTok social media account. When the charges were read to them, they pleaded guilty to the two counts of. .. defamation of character and incitement to public disturbance,” Ibrahim said.

CNN has reached out to both men and their attorneys for comment.

Saifullahi Ibrahim, a close associate who visited the men in prison, told CNN the TikTok video was made four years ago and only recently resurfaced online. Ibrahim said he had known both men for more than a decade.

In addition to the court-ordered public raid, the men were fined 10,000 naira (about $23) each and ordered to clean “including sweeping the court premises and washing the court toilets for 30 days,” he said Ibrahim.

They were also ordered to make a video on social media to publicly apologize to Governor Ganduje.

Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, condemned the sentencesaying that “satirising those in authority is not a crime.”

The human rights agency called on the Nigerian authorities to “immediately overturn this terrible sentence”.

Human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong wants the judge’s ruling to be challenged in a higher court.

“I don’t understand why people should be flogged. This form of punishment is inhumane and incompatible with the right to dignity of the human person,” Effiong told CNN.

“It is also doubtful that they have been given a fair trial. I think both men should take steps to challenge the decision in the higher court.”

Effiong added that it was the right of citizens to criticize their leaders.

“Citizens have the right according to the Constitution to freedom of expression, and this right must be respected, especially with regard to public positions. The right of citizens to criticize them is preserved by the constitution” , he said.

Governor Ganduje had previously come under public criticism after a video that surfaced in local media in 2018 appeared to have captured him pocketing large amounts of US dollars in a flowing robe believed to be the proceeds of a bribe

The governor has denied all the allegations.

Kano, located in northern Nigeria, operates under its own strict interpretation of Sharia law. Blasphemy convictions are common in the mostly Muslim-dominated state, where religious police enforce a version of Sharia law known as the Hisbah Corps.

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